Deer have Velvety Antlers this Time of Year

We have a relatively healthy population of white-tailed deer on the island, and they are “in velvet” right now.  One resident wondered aloud if they were reindeer because she wasn’t used to seeing them like this.  Our deer population is not alarmed at the sight of people, so they often browse in full view of the roads, giving us a chance to see their antlers in all their glory.

Deer Grow New Antlers Each Year!

Male fawns exhibit rudimentary antler growth, resulting in small knobs known as “buttons.” Noticeable antler growth, usually two or more antler points, occurs on second year or yearling bucks. Antler development is largely dependent on adequate nutrition. Older deer generally have heavier, better-developed racks than younger animals if nutrition is comparable.

Bucks shed their antlers each year unless there is injury or physiological stress. Shedding typically begins in late December and peaks in mid-February, with few antlered deer seen by early March. Once shedding is complete, new growth immediately begins, with mature antlers present in 3-4 months. During summer, antlers are soft, engorged with blood, and covered with a hair-like membrane called “velvet.” Antlers become solid and hard in late summer or early fall when annual growth is completed. The “velvet” is sloughed or rubbed off on shrubs and trees.

Antler "buttons"

I had an interesting time looking through photos to see how their antlers changed over the course of a year.


More About our Island Deer

In early summer, you might see a tiny fawn, curled up looking all alone.  Don’t worry; the mother is probably nearby, eating and keeping a watchful eye on the youngster.